RACING

OPINION: America on the Rise | RUNNER

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Formula 1 has made no secret of the fact that it is trying to break into America, adding more races and expanding its reach in the United States. But at the same time, a few Americans could get closer to the crack of F1.

It’s been seven long years since Alexander Rossi last represented the United States on the F1 grid, with his last start for Manor at Interlagos in 2015. Since then no one has really come close, and he there has been a distinct shortage of talent on the conveyor. belt.

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You could certainly say that in IndyCar the talent was there, but it’s been too rare for a driver to move from IndyCar to F1 – the flow tends to go in the opposite direction.

The junior ladder in Europe is where the states needed to be represented to have a better chance of making it to F1, and while a number of drivers have climbed as high as Formula 3, it has been rare to see title challengers from there. indicate. So far.

This year had simmered with American potential in Formula 2 and Formula 3, with Red Bull-backed Jak Crawford. (main picture) scoring a pair of podiums at Imola in April. When he followed that up with second place in the Barcelona sprint race, there were three podiums in a row and his challenge for the title was starting to rise.

Add to that the fact that Logan Sargeant scored his first F2 podium the same weekend in the Spanish sprint race, and it was a promising time. While F3 took a short break, Sargeant weathered a tricky first weekend in Monaco to then score his first race podium with a second in Baku, and since then the trajectory has been rapidly uphill.

His team boss Trevor Carlin needs no introduction, and when he told me that Sargeant had the pace to reach F1 but was making a few rookie mistakes trying to prove it on tracks he didn’t know, I fully believed him. Carlin was convinced that Sargeant would click on more familiar circuits, and he duly did so at Silverstone.

An early pole position came in impressive fashion and he followed that up with a solid distance race win in front of one of the biggest crowds of the season, withstanding late pressure from much-loved Alfa Romeo youngster Theo Pourchaire .

Far from cracking when Pouchaire closed in, the attention made Sargeant even more determined that he wasn’t going to miss his first real opportunity to win in F2. The ability to thrive under pressure is a very good trait to have.

But there was no time to soak it up, as Sargeant immediately turned his attention to the following weekend in Austria. Even before the start of the F1 race at Silverstone, the Floridian was focusing on the Red Bull Ring and continuing his form.

Another strong performance in qualifying earned him third place on the grid – comfortably ahead of the only two drivers above him in the championship standings – and he was set for another good weekend to be a racing fan. American supporting young people in Europe.

Junior driver Williams Sargeant’s performance is making a growing case for giving him more seat time in F1. Carl Bingham/Motorsport Pictures

Crawford himself was coming off a very strong weekend at Silverstone as the F3 season resumed, and before Sargeant went racing he had two American wins in two junior events. Starting from the end of the sprint race on Saturday, Crawford moved into second place early and then pulled off a nice move around the outside of race leader Caio Collet to take his first F3 win.

“It was definitely one of my favorite moves I’ve ever done, especially since it was for the race lead,” Crawford said. “So I was really happy with that move, and my engineer was saying it was the best move of the season. Until then my running technique wasn’t great, but I think I definitely made a step forward.

“It was really good. I’ve come so close a couple of times – second at Imola, second at Barcelona, ​​I was second last year at Spa in the sprint race – so I’ve been close a couple of times, but everything never really worked out. But it was one of those races where I had the opportunity, I really wanted it and I took it.”

It would have been an even better weekend for Crawford if he hadn’t been innocently pulled out of what looked like a sixth-place finish in a wet race restart on Sunday, but he’s still in contention for the title, fourth overall and 28 points off the lead.

And out of almost nowhere, the title fight is now where Sargeant finds himself as well. The F2 rookie was one of several drivers to start on wet tires on a dry track in Sunday’s race just after Crawford’s misfortune, and although he had a great shot at Jack Doohan after a slow jaunt, they quickly all dropped in order when the slicks proved to be the way to go.

Emerging outside the points after pitting as early as possible for a set of tires he would have to nurse to the end, Sargeant was on a mission to try and make up for lost ground.

“I wasn’t kidding,” Sargeant said. “You had an angry driver behind the wheel – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. I think it worked for me. To be honest, I wasn’t too worried about the deg, I just wanted to get my way. I must be proud of what I have done. »

As he climbed through the field, which none of his title rivals could do, he crossed the line fourth but was promoted to third by an existing time penalty. This became second when the original race winner was unable to provide a fuel sample, and eventually became back-to-back wins when the original second-placed driver received a time penalty for a breach of Grid.

Coupled with neither of the top two scorers on Sunday, Sargeant moved into second place and reduced what had been a 73-point deficit to the leader just two rounds ago to 39 points.

This form has Sargeant in contention for the title and leaves Carlin wondering if a two-year contract to race in F2 could be revisited by Williams if this form continues.

It’s surely starting to earn the F1 team’s attention in terms of its latest FP1 rookie outing yet to be fulfilled, and with Colton Herta testing for McLaren this week at Portimao – also with an eye on the FP1 – there could be two Americans racing during F1 weekends at some point this season.

There are still a few more steps to take for either of them to reach a racing seat, but the momentum is building in a way it hasn’t in several years.

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